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Wings top Leafs 4-3 in final preseason game

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Mantha delivers in the 3rd to help Detroit finish the preseason 6-1-1

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit and Toronto wrapped up their preseason slates with the back-end of a (almost) home and home in Detroit. Both teams featured stronger lineups and were looking at their young talent to round out the rosters. Pulkkinen-Mantha-Athanasiou all showed well, but there is not enough room for all the youngsters.

1st Period

Red Wings scored early in the 1st on a fantastic fake shot/ slap pass from Vanek to Nyquist who finished over a flailing Anderson.

Young talent took control of the first half of the period. Larkin possessed the puck well and found Green who forced Anderson to make a nice save. Hyman and Matthews looked sharp, were around the net and created a few chances for the Leafs. Michigan Man Hyman challenged Smith to a fight, but lost the wrestling match.

Toronto missed an open net opportunity and took a penalty seconds later. A puck chipped over the glass made it a 5v3 opportunity. The Wings capitalized on through a Larkin backhand goal.

The PP unit of Vanek-Zetterberg-Nielsen-Tatar-Green moved the puck well and created chances. Very positive early impressions from Vanek and Nielsen. Both moved the puck well on the PP and Nielsen had the play of the period with a hard back check on a Toronto 2v1 to disrupt the play.

By my count, the Mantha-Sheahan-Athanasiou line had 5 shift and used their speed effectively, but were caught in the d-zone twice for an extended amount of time.

The PP opportunities gave the Wings the overall advantage in the period, but the Leafs outshot them 7-6.

After 1: Wings 2 - Leafs 0

2nd Period

Mrazek started off with two strong saves. The first was after Mantha-Sheahan-Athanasiou were caught in the zone and the second save followed Matthews getting a pass past Smith to a wide open Nylander in the slot. Mrazek performed admirably all period, including a point blank save midway through the period on Matthews.

Toronto scored after a failed Wings PP. Hyman sent a pass through the crease that banked off of Marchenko’s skate. Not much Mrazek could do on the play.

With only seconds left, the Wings were able to regain the 2 goal lead. Nyquist stole the puck behind the net and passed to Vanek, who hit Smith in the slot for the goal.

Toronto kept the advantage in shots: 18-16. Matthews, Hyman, Nylander, and Marner continued their strong play for the Leafs.

After 2: Wings 3 - Leafs 1

3rd Period

It started out poorly for Mrazek and the Wings. 2 goals in 12 seconds tied the game for the Leafs. The game tying goal came off a bouncing puck that Mrazek could not handle; calamity ensued and Laich chipped the puck in over a sprawled out Mrazek and Connor Brown.

Athanasiou created a short handed chance and his line carried the Wings in the 3rd. Mantha scored through a Sheahan screen to give Detroit a 4-3 lead. They followed up with another great scoring chance right after the goal. Athanasiou and Mantha were awesome this period, but it might not be enough to find them a spot on the roster.

Mrazek made a big save in the final minute and the Wings were able to hold on to the lead despite being outshot 31-23.

Final: Wings 4 - Leafs 3

Final Thoughts

Pulkkinen appears to have a spot on the 23 man roster. His time on the PP and strong play with Vanek + Helm, followed up by some ok time with Larkin + Abdelkader in the 3rd, has me convinced he will be on the team when the decisions are made by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Mantha and Athanasiou are talented (obviously) and part of the future, but I do not see either having a spot if the Wings start out with 13 forwards. And I do not think that is a bad thing. They continue developing in Grand Rapids and become better two-way players (got caught in their own zone on a few occasions tonight). It is better for the future of the team if they get consistent playing time instead of being a 4th liner or even 13th or 14th forward and playing limited minutes.

Ott and Miller will not be as exciting and lack the creativity and playmaking ability of Mantha and Athanasiou, but they are experienced and I believe their presence on the 4th line will save some of the top line talent. What I mean by that is Blashill would be more likely to run 4 lines with Miller and Ott vs. having Mantha/ Athanasiou and being quicker to pull the trigger on shortening the bench. Over an 82 game season this is crucial to help keep the top guys fresh and productive.

I also enjoy it when the Wings have a guy like Ott to play some “old time hockey” with a Matt Martin type player. But that is not a reason for a roster spot.

Ouellet seems to have a spot on the roster, almost for sure if they go with 8 on defense. Sproul is deserving as well and their play could also change the situation with Athanasiou and Mantha if the organization would not want to lose anyone on waivers.

Mrazek looked great the first 2 periods and followed it up with a rough first 2 minutes of the 3rd. He regained his composure and finished strong. We have seen the inconsistent play with Mrazek before, so it is a bit concerning, but I think he will get better with more playing time. It is imperative for him to start well because the Wings will need a confident goalie to cover up some of the holes in the defensive unit.

The next 14 hours will be uncomfortable. Hopefully the Wings can slip their guys through waivers. It would be a bummer to lose Callahan or Frk before the season starts.

The roster will be finalized on Tuesday, but I have a feeling the roster debate is just heating up.

Anyways, bring on the Lightning and get this season rolling!